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Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler Cosponsors Bill to Remove Military Sexual Assault from Chain of Command
Bipartisan bill a response to sharp increase in assaults within the military; Possible Senate approval of measure in December
Jaime Herrera Beutler announced today that she is cosponsoring legislation to confront a rise in military sexual assaults by taking the evaluation and response for such incidents outside the military chain of command.
The bipartisan Military Justice Improvement Act is a legislative response to an alarming 37% increase in sexual assaults within the armed services over the last two years. Despite efforts by military leadership to address this serious issue, the problem remains. A Defense Department report found that fewer than one in six cases were being reported to authorities, often due to fear of retaliation by superiors. A quarter of the time, the perpetrators of these crimes were in the victims' direct chain of command.
The Military Justice Improvement Act would amend the Uniform Code of Military Justice to transfer crimes like rape and sexual assault to independent, trained professional military prosecutors who would weigh prosecution based on evidence.
“I want our military to continue setting the standard for honor and discipline, which is why I’m supporting this bill,” said Jaime. “We only have two choices: take the prosecution of these crimes outside the chain of command, or face the reality that sexual assault in the military will get worse. It’s encouraging to see so many of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle joining me in recognizing the current system simply can’t confront this serious problem. It’s time to make the necessary changes to protect the men and women who sacrifice so much to protect us.”
The U.S. Senate has been debating nearly identical legislation, S. 967, which was introduced by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and has strong bipartisan support. Supporters are hopeful the bill can earn passage when the Senate reconvenes in December.
Earlier this year, Jaime traveled to Afghanistan where she had the opportunity to discuss and learn more about this issue from members of the military and officials with on-the-ground experience.
In June, she took steps to protect military victims of sexual assault and rape when she supported legislation that would add rape, sexual assault, and other sexual misconduct to the list of crimes eligible for protected communication. She also supported provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act that established minimum sentencing guidelines for sexual assault and stripped commanders of their ability to dismiss the findings of a court-martial.